Congressman Steve King is advancing a proposal that would clear the path for federal investigations of alleged price-fixing in the natural gas industry and would significantly increase fines for businesses found guilty of price-gouging. The penalties for businesses guilty of manipulating the natural gas market would go from one-hundred-thousand dollars to one-million dollars.

King, a Republican from Kiron in western Iowa, says the House Ag Committee last (Wednesday) night endorsed an amendment that would do just that. “The amendment adds more sunshine and oversight (and) powers to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission,” King says. He says the proposal erases some auditing requirements that had prevented the commission from quickly assessing cases of alleged price fixing.

King says the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will now be able to target their investigations on spikes in the market rather than conduct a wide-ranging audit of general natural gas trading over a broad period of time. King says at the turn of the century, eight companies were fined for manipulating the natural gas market.

King says one-hundred-40 million dollars in fines were levied against the eight companies — with that cap of one-hundred-thousand dollars per incident. “Multiply that times 10 — that’ll be the penalty hanging over their heads this time if they manipulate the market,” King says.

The proposal was backed by both Republicans and Democrats on the House Ag Committee and King says he’s confident it will eventually become law.